Day 9: Yaffo (Jaffa) – Tel Aviv
Yaffo (Jaffa or Joppa), is one of the ancient ports of the Holy land. It is famous for it’s mentioned several times in biblical stories such as the books of Jonah, Joshua, Kings, Ezra, and Acts. The city was formally conquered by the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamluks, Napoleon, the Ottomans, and the Brits.
Archaeological remains show that Yaffo was first inhabited over 6,500 years ago, making it one of the oldest cities in the Holy Land.
The city is mentioned in an Egyptian letter from 1447 BCE, glorifying the conquest of Thutmose III, whose general, Djehuty hid armed warriors in large baskets and sent the baskets as a present to the Canaanite city’s governor. At night, they opened the gates and the city fell.
The city is also mentioned in the Amarna letters (1,340 BCE) under its name (Ya-Pho–Ya-Pu,). The city was under Egyptian occupation until 800 BCE.
Jaffa is mentioned 4 times in the Bible, as a city in the territory given to the Tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:46).
It was the port-of-entry for the cedars of Lebanon for the construction of the 1st Temple by King Solomon (2 Chronicles 2:16) and for the 2nd Temple of Jerusalem (Ezra 3:7).
The port of Yaffo is where the prophet Jonah tried to flee from God on a ship for Tarshish (Jonah 1:3) and as the territorial border of the Tribe of Dan.
In 701 BCE, in the days of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, invaded the region from Yaffo.
Under Persian rule, Jaffa was governed by Phoenicians from Tyre.
Alexander the Great’s troops were stationed in Yaffo.
During the Roman suppression of the Jewish Revolt in 66 CE, Yaffo was conquered and burned. Josephus Flavius (Jewish War 2.507–509, 3:414–426) writes that 8,400 inhabitants were slaughtered.
The Bible mentions Saint Petros bringing back to life the widow Tabitha in Acts 9:36–42, and in Acts 10:10–23 while Petros was on his way to Caesarea to meet Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, being hungry, he had a vision of a large sheet filled with “clean” (Kosher) and “unclean” animals being lowered from heaven, together with a message from the Holy Spirit telling him that he can kill and eat “what God has cleaned”.
In 1517, Yaffo was conquered by the Ottomans. During the 17th and 18th centuries churches and hostels were built for Christian pilgrims who came to visit the Holy places in Jerusalem and Galilee.
We will visit the alley where in 1799 Napoleon penetrated the city and captured it during the “Siege of Yaffo”, ransacked it, and ordered the massacre of thousands of Muslim soldiers who were imprisoned.
After these devastating events when the French left, Al Jazar of Acre, appointed Muhammad Abu-Nabbut as the governor of Yaffo from 1810 to 1820. He began the building and restoration work in Yaffo, including the Mahmoudiya Mosque and Sabil Abu Nabbut.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the population of Yaffo had swelled considerably. A group of Jews bought land to the north and left the walled city where in 1909 they established a new settlement and named it later Tel Aviv.
The British overtook Yaffo from the Ottomans in November 1917 after 400 years of occupation. In 1948 Yaffo became part of new Israel.
The main attractions in Yaffo are:
The Clock Square built in 1906 in honor of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
The Saraya (governor’s palace) built in 1897.
The Zodiac alleys are a maze of restored alleys leading to the harbor.
Yaffo Hill is a center for archaeological finds, including restored Egyptian gates, about 3,500 years old.
Yaffo Lighthouse, an inactive lighthouse located in the old port over “Simon the tanner’s” house.
Yaffo Museum of Antiquities, located in an 18th-century Ottoman building constructed on the remains of a Crusader fortress. (Not included in the tour)
There are many other museums and beautiful galleries in the area.
The Greek Orthodox Monastery of Archangel Michael (Patriarchate of Jerusalem) built in 1894.
The Church of St. Petros and St. Tabitha serves the Russian Orthodox Christian community, with services in Russian and Hebrew; underneath the chapel nearby there is what is believed to be the tomb of St Tabitha. (Not included in the tour)
St. Peter’s Church, a Franciscan basilica and hospice built in 1654 on the remains of a Crusader fortress, and commemorating the miracle of bringing Tabitha back from the dead.
Immanuel Church built 1904. (Not included in the tour)
The St. Nicholas Armenian Monastery was built in the 17th C.
Al-Bahr Mosque, overlooking the harbour, may be Jaffa’s oldest existing mosque.
Mahmoudia Mosque built in 1812 by Abu Nabbut. The water fountain (sabil) embedded in the walls of the mosque for pilgrims is attributed to Suleiman Pasha governor of Acre.
The Flea Market: right outside the old city walls of Yaffo there are a maze of alleyways, covered walkways and outdoor verandas full of shops open six days a week, from Sunday through Friday. This is the place to visit if you are looking for unique, old, one-of-a-kind items.
Recently a number of restaurants and coffee shops were opened for weary shoppers to refresh and watch the crowds go by.
Kedumim Square Visitors Center: An excellent place to get to know the history of Yaffo which includes an archaeological site and light and sound show.
By bus, taxi or guided tour.